#59 Duke Football 2016 Preview

Duke Blue Devils
Overall Rank: #59
#11 ACC
It only took Duke seven games to become bowl eligible last year. It was the start of a special season for the Blue Devils, but things got tougher starting with a close Halloween loss to Miami. Duke went on to lose three more games in a row. But they did win eight games and secured their first bowl victory since 1960, a 44-41 win over Indiana at the Pinstripe Bowl.
2015 Record: 8-5, 4-4
2015 Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Indiana (W 44-41)
Coach: David Cutcliffe (48-53 at Duke, 92-82 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Zac Roper
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Knowles
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Thomas Sirk, QB, 803 yards
Passing: Thomas Sirk, QB, 2,625 yards
Receiving: T.J. Rahming, WR, 571 yards
Tackles: DeVon Edwards, CB, 101
Sacks: Tinashe Bere, LB, 1.5; Marquies Price, DE, 1.5
Interceptions: Breon Borders, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Jela Duncan, RB Shaun Wilson, QB Parker Boehme, WR Anthony Nash, S Deondre Singleton
Key Losses: RB Shaquille Powell, WR Max McCaffrey, OL Matt Skura, LB Dwayne Norman, S Jeremy Cash, P Will Monday, K Ross Martin
Duke’s defense was solid last year, but slipped towards the end of the season. And now they have to find a way to replace leader and All-American safety Jeremy Cash. Cash led the team with 18.0 tackles-for-loss and three forced fumbles. He was a big playmaker on a defense that needed a big playmaker and now that is a huge hole to fill. Corbin McCarthy will likely step into Cash’s spot, but the rest of the secondary should be in decent shape, especially at cornerback where Breon Borders and former safety DeVon Edwards return. Tinashe Bere figures to lead the linebackers after the departure of leading tackler Dwayne Norman. The defensive line has three starters to replace and will have to build around tackle A.J. Wolf. Sophomore Marquis Price has potential after tallying 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles-for-loss in 2015. Duke will need him and the rest of the line to get some pressure on the opposing quarterback if the defense is going to improve dramatically. Last season the Blue Devils ranked 114th in the country and 13th in the ACC is sacks, tallying just 17 on the season. 
The offense was in good hands until quarterback Thomas Sirk tore his ACL…again. The injury was in February so there is hope that Sirk will be back in the fall, but his status will likely be up in the air for quite some time. Sirk threw for 2,625 yards and 16 touchdowns last year and also led the team in rushing with 803 yards and eight scores. In the meantime, Parker Boehme is getting ready to start. In limited action as a sophomore, Boehme threw for 579 yards and two touchdowns and was used occasionally as a change of pace quarterback. Like Sirk, Boehme can do damage with his legs. He rushed for 181 yards and five touchdowns on 45 carries. T.J. Rahming and Anthony Nash are proven wide receivers and will help usher Boehme into a starting role should it come to that. The bigger help will be at running back where Jela Duncan and Shaun Wilson should provide a potent one-two punch in backfield. Those two combined to rush for 884 yards and seven touchdowns on 151 carries. They will get a much larger workload in 2016, especially if Sirk is still out.
The Bottom Line:
Coach David Cutcliffe has done amazing things at Duke, but the level of success achieved in 2015 is not going to be a consistent thing in Durham. The Blue Devils have some winnable games early and they have to beat teams like Wake Forest and Army to have any shot at reaching another bowl game. But even in a down year, do not count out Duke and Coach Cutcliffe. This is a team that the rest of the ACC cannot take lightly. If they do, the Blue Devils will come out and pull off an upset. If that happens enough, Duke could continue their success with another bowl berth even while the roster rebuilds.
Projected Bowl: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 192.9 (37th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 246.5 (45, 5)
Total Offense: 439.4 (36, 3)
Scoring Offense: 31.5 (48, 5)
Rushing Defense: 153.8 (49, 7)
Pass Defense: 240.9 (87, 12)
Total Defense: 394.7 (60, 10)
Scoring Defense: 25.4 (47, 7)
Turnover Margin: -0.08 (75, 9)
Sacks: 1.31 (114, 13)
Sacks Allowed: 1.38 (27, 4)
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#116 Scott Bracey